LSD is best known for inducing a reality-shifting psychedelic experience. But it turns out, it also appears to work a little bit like a painkiller if taken in small doses.
Scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and the Beckley Foundation in the UK looked to assess the pain relief properties of microdosing LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide) in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.
Reported in the Journal of Psychopharmacology last week, minuscule doses of LSD could increase pain tolerance by up to 20 percent. In fact, the researchers say this effect is comparable to some opioid painkilling drugs.
“The magnitude of the analgesic effect appears comparable to analgesic effects of opioids in the same pain model,” lead researcher Jan Ramaekers, a professor of Psychopharmacology and Behavioral Toxicology at Maastricht University, said in a statement.
For the study, 24 people were either given a single dose of 5, 10, and 20 micrograms of LSD or a placebo. These doses were so low that the person would not experience any noticeable psychedelic effects and would be able to perform everyday tasks without a problem.
They were then asked to carry out a number of tasks to assess their pain tolerance, such as submerging their hand in an ice-cold water tank for as long as possible. While this was going on, the researchers kept an eye on their vital signs to see how their body was dealing with the pain.
The team found that the people on 20 micrograms were able to remain immersed in the cold water for substantially longer than those on a placebo. The researchers worked out that pain tolerance was increased by approximately 20 percent. The people who received the microdose of LSD also reported a decrease in the subjective experience of painfulness and unpleasantness. Furthermore, the effects were surprisingly long-lasting. Participants reportedly felt the pain-relieving effects for up to 5 hours after they received their dose.
Of course, much more research (not to mention changes in the law) needs to be carried out before we see the prospect of doctors prescribing LSD for your back pain, but the findings raise the possibility that microdosing LSD could be used as an alternative to potentially problematic painkillers, such as opioids.
“The present data suggests low doses of LSD could constitute a useful pain management treatment option that is not only effective in patients but is also devoid of the problematic consequences associated with current mainstay drugs, such as opioids,” Amanda Feilding, founder and director of the Beckley Foundation and co-director of the Beckley/Maastricht Microdosing Research Programme, commented in a statement.
“Over 16 million people worldwide are currently suffering from Opioid Use Disorder and many more will become hooked as a result of oversubscription of pain medication. I am encouraged by these results as I have long believed that LSD may not only change the sensations of pain but also our subjective relationship with it,” added Feilding.
“We must continue to explore this with the aim of providing safer, non-addictive alternatives to pain management, and to bring people in pain a step closer to living happier, healthier and fully expressed lives.”